A Community of Heart Profile: Judith Boel



Although we know Judith as a Canadian, actually, she is an American by birth. She was born in Minnesota to Mervin and Nora Clark who met while he visited his cousins. He was entranced with their neighbor - a beautiful radio show pianist and fashion model who later became his wife. With her mother, Judith joined her father who was the Military Governor in Hesse, Germany after World War II. During her three years abroad, Judith appreciated the diversity of experience, language and culture to which she was exposed.

After her father left public life, they moved to Coconut Grove, FL. Due to many family hardships, Judith grew up in African-American neighborhoods that educated her in the real meaning of community. When times were bleak, neighbors came to her assistance and Judith has carried these lessons forward. She married at 17 and had three children. During this time, she became a Methodist Pastor - the first and youngest woman to do so. In 1979, she quit the Methodist Church because of Civil Rights issues. Eventually, because of love and politics, she moved her heart and her home to Canada. Judith showed an aptitude for learning and began college on a full scholarship.

As she needed to earn a living, she decided to become a teacher. In 1966, she returned to the University of Miami and received a BA in Speech and Hearing Therapy. In 1967, she earned an M. ED. in Special Education, graduating Magna Cum Laude. She made recordings for the blind and tutored other students to make ends meet. After graduating, she taught in a high-school setting with severely traumatized students.

Once in Canada, she was unable to get a teaching job so she worked as an aide for autistic children. She audited the equivalent of a second MA in Counseling between 1974 and 1976 at Antioch's Campus in British Columbia (BC). She also started a small private counseling practice. In 1979, she and her husband moved to Portland so that he could become a Naturopath. She was hired as a teacher of autistic children and later became teacher-manager of several classrooms. While in Portland, she studied American Sign Language and remedial teaching methods, as well as American free-style karate.

By 1983, they returned to Salt Island in Canada and she began to work toward her doctorate at the University of BC. She was the recipient of the Wilda Adams Memorial Scholarship and subsequently received full fellowships during her studies.

Her dissertation involved helping autistic children sleep and/ or rest at night. Since they were non-verbal, she found a way to help their brain waves operate more slowly by activating REM sleep activity. She did this by securing a bar above subjects' beds with lights on each end that alternated on/ off. The children enjoyed watching the lights and eventually became quieter and relaxed more in bed. Data was taken by on/off switches under children's mattresses to indicate how much the children moved around. A computer was compiling the data in another room of the house so that no human observers were necessary. Although her pilot project was successful, she was unable to get funding, and, did not finish her doctorate.

In 1985, she did qualify and register as a school psychologist. The Vancouver School Board recruited her that year to work with under-serviced gifted children who were from "the wrong side of the tracks." She also had a private practice for women who had been beaten and sexually abused and completed a two-year training program in Bowen Family Systems Therapy.

In 1992, when her stepson was doing well, she decided to travel around the world on $15 per day. She belonged to a group of Vancouver women who had been asked to help women's groups in Croatia. As part of her travels, she went into the former Yugoslavia during the 'civil wars' and helped train the social workers who worked with rape camp survivors. The lessons she learned about PTSD in the field were worth more than any university education.

Judith discovered EMDR in 1996 from a friend who also worked with severely traumatized clients. As soon as she completed the training, she got involved full force! Her work with her first client, who was dying of cancer, is recorded in the book, Dreamcatcher by Beth Hill, published in 1997.

She first heard about EMDR HAP from Steve Silver after hearing Jean Silver's poem she had written about her husband's work in Sarajevo with HAP after the atrocities. Because of her own experiences, she was touched by Jean's poem and called Steve up after hearing about an earthquake in Mexico and wanting to go to help. Steve's reply was "Nothing is stopping you from going!" And nothing did! Judith joined Nacho Jarero and Luci Artigas' team. This is the group responsible for the Butterfly Hug and Judith's contribution was to include drawings. The protocol that came out of this experience is used around the world to work with survivors of man-made or natural disasters.

In 1997, she became a school trustee for her school district in Salt Island and ran successfully three times until she decided to retire and spend more time in warmer climates.

In 1999, she joined the EMDR HAP Board of Directors. By then, she was an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and an EMDR Institute Facilitator. She was on the EMDR

HAP Board for eight years and the President of EMDR HAP for 4 years. Judith was impressed with the many practitioners who volunteered and the fine leadership and enormous growth that occurred. She also was elected to the EMDRIA Board in 2002. She found that her Salt Island

School Board experience was helpful in understanding her role in this new Board. She was Chair of the Membership Committee and interested in diversifying the membership. In the beginning, there was some rivalry between EMDRIA and EMDR HAP while these new organizations were figuring out their missions and their roles. Judith thought it important to encourage cooperation between them. As she was on both the EMDR HAP and EMDRIA Boards concurrently, she felt she helped support the organizations cooperate.

She became a HAP trainer in 2004 and her training took her to Camp Pendleton, the Marine Base in San Diego. She was inspired by Trainer Susan Rogers, and Facilitator A.J. Popky. As a former 'Army Brat,' she was proud to help the American Military. She was also motivated by help she received from Roy Kiessling.

In 2007, Judith was the trainer for the first HAP training in Vancouver, BC for the BC Coalition of Violence Prevention Centers. Twenty-six women from all over BC were trained and given ongoing consultation. In 2009, the EMDR Association of Canada gave her an Honorary Lifetime Membership for her contributions in the field.

After the tsunami (12/26/2004), Judith was the trainer for the HAP team that went to India in 2005 and 2006 for a month in the spring and fall of both years. The following year, she went to the Philippines to train mental health professionals from a Social Service Agency, as well as clinicians at the University of San Tomas in Manila.

In 2010, she went to Chengdu in Szechuan Province, China where 32 practitioners completed the training under her leadership. Among the students was Dr. Liu, the first psychiatrist to recognize PTSD in China after the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese trainees were dedicated, exceptional workers with great humor. The timing of the training was serendipitous as there were floods soon after in the same nearby area where severe earthquakes had occurred 2 years prior, with great loss of life and injuries.

Judith would like to say the following to the EMDR Community:

"Keep the faith. Stay true to the protocol. Don't be scared by your client's emotional reactions. Consult. Try to get enough dosage. Work on your own stuff if you start to get scared of your client's stuff. I hope that people would consider – depending on the funding structure you have to work with -finding a way to get a number of low fee patients because they will be the best clients you have. They will be so glad to get an opportunity of affordable good therapy that they will go out and make a difference in the world. It is the best way to stop the cycle of domestic abuse, violence and incest. To get affordable therapy into the system, think systemically. If everybody took only two low fee patients, it would make a difference."

Judith is also a singer. She grew up with the joy of hearing her grandmother sing beautiful Norwegian songs while doing her housework or hearing her mother "singing away the blues" at the piano when the family faced difficulties. As a result, vocal music has been a joyful, inspiring and healing part of Judith's life. Whether she was singing in her church choir as a child, for her children during their car trips, for her mentally handicapped students, at political rallies in the 1960's, on street corners as a street musician, music has been Judith's ally in helping her through difficult times and communicating what she believes to be important to others. It also has been a way to connect with some of her clients in a way that is profoundly meaningful and relevant for both the client and the therapist.

Judith is a published poet. She will go to Buenos Aires for two months this year where she plans to dance the tango. She is an avid practitioner of Chi Kung and enjoys sharing her knowledge wherever she is. She works out in the gym, rides her bike, reads in English and Spanish and belongs to a Reader's Theater group.

Currently, she lives part-time on the West Coast of Mexico where she is "into health foods, fiestas and moving humbly." She is also a standup comic and is occasionally found in one of the restaurants holding forth about her travels. She is always available to help out if someone needs assistance. As Judith says, "In the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make." We are all grateful for the love and help that she has given all of us in the EMDR community.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Judith Boel,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 25, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/7640.

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